China's first space station will hit the Earth's atmosphere soon
Mar 10 2018 by Kathy Alvarado
"There is a chance that a small amount of Tiangong-1 debris may survive reentry and impact the ground", Aerospace reports.
Nasa's 77-tonne Skylab space station came hurtling to Earth in an nearly completely uncontrolled descent in 1979, with some large pieces landing outside Perth in Western Australia.
Aerospace, funded by the US, reports that the Tiangong-1 space station is expected to enter Earth's atmosphere around April 3.
In recent days the US-funded Aerospace Corporation, a research organisation that advises government and private enterprise on space flight, also updated its re-entry window. Still, there's a degree of uncertainty, coupled with concerns that the spacecraft could have titanium fuel tanks holding toxic hydrazine, which could be unsafe if it crashed into an urban area.
The report includes a map showing the module is expected to re-enter somewhere between 43° north and 43° south latitudes.
On September 14, 2016, China made an official statement predicting Tiangong-1 would reenter the atmosphere in the latter half of 2017. The chances of re-entry are slightly higher in northern China, the Middle East, central Italy, northern Spain and the northern states of the US, New Zealand, Tasmania, parts of South America and southern Africa.
It said the space station will enter the Earth's atmosphere on April 3, give or take a week.
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"Once it starts to break apart, each of the pieces will fall along the track, but they can be spread out by several hundred miles", he added. It's thought that more information will be gleaned in the coming weeks, although we may not know for sure where Tiangong-1 will hit until its final hours.
The Chinese space agency launched Tiangong-1 as the "Heavenly Palace" around 2011, but five years afterward it spun out of control.
However, Aerospace insisted the chance of debris hitting anyone living in these nations was tiny.
"To make any sensible statement about what will survive, we'd need to know what's inside", said Stijn Lemmens, a space debris analyst at the ESA's Darmstadt center in an interview with the Guardian.
Things go wrong in space and we must accept that.
As noted, a majority of the spacecraft is expected to burn up upon reentry into Earth's atmosphere, but some chunks weighing as much as 220 pounds could hit the surface.
"The date, time and geographic footprint of the re-entry can only be predicted with large uncertainties".